Dave Woodhall watches Villa’s league season fizzle out on Sunday.
I’ve seen some strange things at Vila Park over the years and Sunday’s defeat to Burnley led to another. Villa were beaten by the bottom team in the league, meaning that they ended the season in seventeenth place – their lowest finish since the Premier League was formed – yet the final whistle was greeted not with a howl of outrage, but with some mild booing that was almost entirely drowned out by polite applause.
There are a couple of reasons for this, both of which are perfectly obvious. First, the transformation in the entire club over the past three months has been little short of miraculous. Tim Sherwood deserves all the praise he gets and so do the players, the last couple of games notwithstanding. The second reason, of course, takes place on Saturday.
It was with this particular appointment with destiny in mind that there was more interest than usual in the team announcement. We would either see a plethora of squad players trying to elbow their way into the Wembley picture, or a full-strength side would be doing their best to avoid injury.
In the end there was a third option; all the big names were present yet Jed Steer made his league debut and Charles N’Zogbia filled in at left-back with Gabby Agbonlahor up front. No, I don’t know why either.
Anyway, the upshot of this was that Burnley scored after five minutes, while Villa were still trying to work out who was due to play where, and spent the next 85 minutes defending, which in fairness to them they did very well. Villa, meanwhile, wasted several good chances to secure the points that would have seen them finish the season a couple of places higher and earn a considerable amount of extra prize money.
But it wasn’t to be and Villa saw out 2014-15 with, probably appropriately considering what had gone on in much of the previous 37 games, a defeat to a side who on paper were vastly inferior. Whether we’d have won in different circumstances will never be known but as it is, the most important thing was that there didn’t appear to be any further injury worries, although with Nathan Baker you never know.
Arsenal, meanwhile, were warming up for the final with a routine 4-1 win over the Albion. Thousands of words will be written about the cup final before 5.30 next Saturday, and most of them will conclude with the not exactly earth-shattering prediction that Villa’s wait for an eighth FA Cup win will continue. iI we play like we have in the past two games, we’ll lose. If we play as we had in the weeks prior to those disappointing displays, and if Arsenal are on less than top form, we’ve every chance.
Anyway, if you want a rough guide line, Villa are the team in form. After all, we drew the last half of our previous game. Arsenal lost theirs.